As Western populations grow increasingly older, ‘healthy ageing’ is presented as one of today’s greatest medical and societal challenges. However, contrary to what many policy makers want us to believe, the aspiration to live long, healthy and happy lives is not a problem specific to our times. On the contrary successful ageing has a long history.
The conference Histories of Healthy Ageing is based on the assumption that ‘healthy ageing’ has informed the medical agenda since Antiquity. With ‘healthy ageing’ we refer to ways of thinking about and treating the body not only from a medical perspective, but also taking into account questions of what constitutes a happy and fulfilled life. In particular these latter issues were central to medicine before 1800 and relate to healthy living as much as to questions connected specifically to old age. Thus whether we speak of classic ways of training the athlete’s body, medieval religious rites, the pre-modern obsession with regimen (rules for living a healthy life), or the upper-class fancy to visit spas, at the root of it all was a wish for wellbeing, health and longevity.
The conference focuses especially (but not exclusively) on the pre-modern period. Submissions for 20-minute papers should include a 250-word abstract and a short CV. Please send submissions by email by 01 December 2016. Subject to funding, small travel grants might be available for junior researchers.
Possible topics include:
- Histories of diet and dietetics, ‘sports’, spas and bathing, medication and life-elixirs, etc.
- The materiality of healthy living and ageing (pills, powders and elixirs, bath houses, exercise apparatus, scales and the like).
- Aesthetics and the history of cosmetic surgery
- Prognosis and historical efforts to chart life expectancy
- Relations between patients and doctors
- Ars Moriendi and resilience in the face of illness and death
- Healthy living and ageing outside academic medicine (quacks, alchemy, homeopathy)
- Narratives of ‘healthy ageing’
- The philosophical question of what constitutes a long and happy life
- Life cycles
- The understanding and application of the six ‘non-naturals’
- Healthy ageing and the arts
At the conference, five keynote lectures will centre on the non-naturals, the areas defined by Hippocratic writers as basis of health management and disease prevention:
- Food and Drink by Elizabeth Williams (Oklahoma State)
- Exercise and Rest by Onno van Nijf (Groningen)
- Sleep and Wakefulness by William Maclehose (UC London)
- Excretion and Retention by Michael Stolberg (Würzburg)
- Perturbations of the Mind & Emotions by Irena Metzler (Swansea)
Conference organisers: Rina Knoeff, Catrien Santing, James Kennaway, Ruben Verwaal, Rolf ter Sluis. Further information can be found on the conference website.